Kudankulam delays mount up

18 January 2012

Protest and doubts of the safety of nuclear energy have put a six-month delay on the start-up of two new reactors at Kudankulam, the Russian constructor has said.

The reactor units were very nearly complete at the end of last year, but final commissioning checks have had to be postponed due to a surge of popular protest around Kudankulam in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Local people blockaded the site and brought a halt to commissioning around the last week of July 2011.

The history of the site dates back to 1989 when it was approved by government for two Russian-built VVER pressurized water reactors. These were not fully planned until 2006, when documentation such as environmental impact assessments were prepared. However, this process took place under a legal framework that did not require public consultation.

Currently the project is mired in political, industrial and civil debate where plant owner Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL) and the government Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) are highly visible. NPCIL has complained about "vested interest groups, who are spreading unscientific and incorrect information, fuelling apprehension and fears about nuclear power among the masses."

Initially hoping to bring the new nuclear power plant online early this year, Russia's state nuclear concern Rosatom has said that even in the event of "rapid resumption of commissioning" the first reactor could come online in "May 2012, and the second unit no earlier than February 2013."

The two VVER-1000 model 412 units are among the world's most advanced. They feature passive heat removal, core catchers and additional boron injection shutdown mechanisms, while the site also has a hardened emergency control room.

Kudankulam's problems come in parallel to another serious public opinion issue at Jaitapur in Maharastra state, which is earmarked for the construction of up to six Areva EPRs. Local people there are concerned about the protection of their fishing livelihoods and have been encouraged to rally against the plan by European activists and local political groups. One man was shot dead in April 2011 during a related attack on a police station in Sakhri Nate.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News